On Writing The Coffee Shop Goddess

The Coffee Shop Goddess was a labour of love. I began writing it as a short story in the Summer of 2001, after a long, meandering conversation with a friend, Jennifer Roseman, about the power of laughter: how important it is and how humour can bring a group together and give them something in common when nothing else seems to work.

The story, once meant to be a lark to share with Jenny for one more laugh kept growing. I kept thinking up more jokes, more absurdities, and more wicked little observations. Within a week I found I had a novella on my hands, and then a full-blown novel. Angie and Russell, my two protagonists would wake me up in the middle of the night for conversations about where they wanted the story to go.

The period in which I wrote TCSG was a crazy time in my life: just out of University and trying to get on my feet, find a job, find a home, and start a writing career. There was always something coming up to pull me away from writing… and that was so funny, once I could take a look back, that it needed to be added to the book. It took me four years, three frustrating and time-sucking jobs, three moves, and more stress than I care to think about to finally have a manuscript ready, and then a year more of editing, re-writing, re-reading, and changing to make it feel ready.

The voice for The Coffee Shop Goddess is as offbeat and strange as I am. When I first started, I had this heroic belief that I could start a trend, to convince Pagans to start telling stories to each other and build a culture outside of serious religious practice: If I could get them to laugh, they’ keep on trying.

Frankly I am just too naughty, too foul-mouthed, and far too irreverent to have made that work. My love of playing with ideas and philosophy wanted their place in the book, too. So did my rock and roll fan-boyism, my addiction to romantic comedies, fascination with the sheer stupidity you see in International politics, and my frustration with trying to make a life in the adult world with a B.A. in English.

What I ended up with was a quirky, silly, and generally tangled-up tale of two witches, a philosopher, a goddess, a god, a wallaby, and a whole lot of international spies that I have been delighted to see makes people laugh. Now that I’m a little older, a little wiser, and a little less pretentious, I have come to see that, and that alone as the only benchmark of the book’s success.

I also ended up with something a little too weird for a first book in today’s climate; I sent TCSG to companies ranging from the giants like Del Rey to small press like Canada’s Tesseract Books, to the almost entirely local like Inscribed. Most of them didn’t even dignify me with a rejection letter; they just left me sitting for a year. It is a hard thing to do, sit and wait. Not to mention sitting through everyone telling me over and over again how many years it took Jo Rowling to get published.

Five years after I’d finished putting the last bit of spit and polish on the manuscript I finally made a big decision: TCSG deserved better than it would get with the publishing industry; I would publish it myself, and somehow, find the right audience for it.

So far it’s been hard, frustrating, and heartbreaking work; but it has been worth every moment of it, because I still get those laughs.

You can find The Coffee Shop Goddess at my Lulu store: http://stores.lulu.com/brian_rideout

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